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Protesters stand holding signs during a demonstration outdors.
Figure 33.1 Nurses can advocate for change in a number of ways, including by participating in public demonstrations. (credit: modification of work “AFGE Rallying with National Nurses United” by AFGE/Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

Pat, a public health nurse assigned to a diverse low-income metropolitan area, has been promoting health access for Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) populations. Over the past year, the community has experienced a 15 percent rise in reported cases of intimate partner violence (IPV), especially among women of color in some of the most disadvantaged regions of the city. The city has launched an IPV prevention program in collaboration with the public health department, local police departments, and local domestic violence shelters. The program includes education, interventions, and additional follow-up services, including safe houses and social services. Pat’s role as a public health nurse includes oversight of public health education activities, with a goal of reducing incidents by 20 percent over the next 3 years through a federal grant.

Nurses must demonstrate professional accountability, acting in the best interests of their clients by supporting client rights and speaking on their behalf, if indicated. This support, or advocacy, is targeted toward improving the well-being of individuals and populations. The attributes of advocacy include empowerment, education, respect, protection, continuity of care, empathy, counseling, shielding, and whistleblowing (Davoodvand et al., 2016). Nurses advocate for their clients, coworkers, employees, and themselves to enhance the quality of care delivered. Nurse advocates often champion causes, such as disease awareness or other health issues, or they may advocate adopting high standards of nursing care or technology to improve their clients’ outcomes. Advocacy often involves providing public support for a particular cause or policy (Abbasinia et al., 2020). Nurses may advocate for a cause to support an action or a proposal within a community or in the media, or they may serve as lobbyists by influencing public officials to promote the passage of legislation.

This chapter explains how nurses advocate for healthy persons, communities, and populations in promoting health equity. The legacy of nurses who have ignited positive changes in health care demonstrates nurses’ bold impact on health care practices. Historical and current examples of nurse advocates in this chapter provide evidence of nursing’s role in population health. Finally, the chapter identifies the steps in developing a coalition and provides examples of how nurses can become involved in advocating for the health of populations.


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